Getting to know: Rachel Branham, ARLT SIG External Engagement Officer

Getting to know the Antiracism & Learning Tech SIG Officers” is a blog series by ARLT SIG Chair, Dr Teeroumanee Nadan, to provide visibility to ARLT SIG officers who undertake this role in a voluntary capacity and to highlight the importance of antiracism work in the sector. It is a celebration of how ARLT SIG officers have grown in this role!

In this blog, she introduces Rachel Branham, the new External Engagement Officer of ARLT SIG, who started her first committee journey in UK HE in June 2023.
Rachel Branham is a Learning Technologist at the University of West London. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Tell me a bit about your educational and work background?

Rachel: My primary background is in visual arts education, where I have been utilising technology in many different forms. Engagement in distance learning as a student and as an instructor has brought me to the field of learning technology. My pedagogy is rooted in expression, equity, and joy, and I believe these tenants are essential to the work we do as educators. I’m from the United States, where “learning technologists” are not really a thing – coming to the United Kingdom has demonstrated the importance of this unique intersection of education and tech that I hope more institutions will acknowledge!”

What is your interest in ARLT SIG?

Rachel: “I joined the ARLT SIG because I want to be aware and informed about complex issues of oppression in education and technology. I joined to learn, sure, but also to lead – as a White woman, it is my responsibility to use my privilege to dismantle racist systems wherever it lives. For me, this work is about equal access to high quality education and without understanding limitations to that access, we just are not doing our jobs.”

What motivates you to undertake your role as External Engagement Officer in ARLT SIG

Rachel: “I have never been involved in a role like this within a professional organisation, so this is an opportunity to understand how a group develops its central tenants and sticks to them in the day-to-day. It also allows me to meet more colleagues who share similar values, and to grow my network in the UK.”

What have you learnt so far in your journey in the ARLT SIG committee?

Rachel: “Since I do not come from a traditional computer engineering background, I am learning so much about the development of AI systems and all the “bad data” that can influence their function. I am also increasingly aware of the built in pedagogy of learning technologies, good or bad, and using my role to share this information and better practices with academics and student-facing staff in my workplace. Adjusting my own communication on this topic has been a big part of my development as a Learning Technologist and as an External Engagement Officer within ARLT SIG.”

What are you doing to improve things within ARLT SIG, ALT and the wider community in terms of antiracism & learning technologies?

Rachel: I am making myself available! I am taking part in the offerings! And I am communicating what I learn with my team and my university. I am also serving on my university’s EDI and Education for Sustainable Development steering groups, so there is a lot of overlap in these spaces that can be used to further positive influence.”

Since you joined in June 2023, what has your journey in ARLT SIG been like so far?

Rachel: “I have mostly been knee-deep in Google Drive folders! I am also practicing my ability to set benchmarks and actionable steps to meet team goals, to generate media (images and blurbs), and to focus on messaging to others.”

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